Utes Thump Trojans, Erase 105-Year Winless Streak in California with Victory Against USC


Kevin Cody

University of Utah sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising in a University of Utah football game against the USC Trojans on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


Despite recent tragedy and a 105-year winless drought in Southern California, Cameron Rising and the Utes rose to the occasion, stunning USC and keeping their Pac-12 Championship hopes alive with a statement victory over the Trojans. 

“It’s super special,” cornerback Clark Phillips said. “I feel like the guys play[ed] with a lot of passion, you know, with the recent events that took place — it was just good to get a victory, man. It was special to us and I’m just glad we came out of here victorious.”

The Utes made it obvious they came to play right from the start as the defense brought the pressure on every down during the first Trojan series. While quarterback Kedon Slovis did find wide receiver Drake London for a few first downs, the Utah defense consistently got in the backfield and forced USC to punt following a tipped pass by Mika Tafua.

After a quick three-and-out by the Utah offense, the defense would yet again hold their own against Slovis and his onslaught of receivers. Upon a solid USC drive down to the Utah 11-yard line, the Utes came up with a big stop on a third and seven despite the Trojans coming out in a four wide receiver set. As Slovis dropped back into the pocket, defensive tackle Aliki Vimahi brought the pressure and linebacker Karene Reid knocked down the off-balanced pass.

University of Utah safety, senior, Vonte Davis, in a University of Utah Football Game against the USC Trojans on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Kevin Cody)

Following the failed third down attempt, the Trojans would settle for a 28-yard field goal and take a 3-0 lead with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter.

Impressively, and after shaking off the dust, the Utes responded on the ensuing possession to take their first lead of the night. Tight-end Dalton Kincaid started the drive off strong, breaking away from his defender and pulling in a 28-yard reception to give Utah excellent field position. Shortly thereafter, tight-end Brant Kuithe found the end zone on a hand-off, sweeping up the right side for 11-yards and crossing the goal line. Following the score, Utah led 7-3 with just 17 seconds left in the initial quarter.

Into the second, Utah’s defense again exerted its red-zone dominance as they refused to give an inch from their own 16-yard line. After failing to convert a third and seven, thanks to more pressure from the Utah defensive-line, USC’s kicker shanked the field goal and the score remained unchanged.

While the Utah offense would take over on downs, several penalties restrained them from progressing, and a botched punt placed USC at the 50-yard line.

As the Trojans took over, they quickly moved the football and Slovis connected with his most dangerous target, Drake London, who brought down a 20-yard reception and hopped two Utah defenders at the goal line for a touchdown. Following the score, the Trojans would lead 10-7 with just a little more than half of the second quarter remaining.

From this point on however, it was all Cameron Rising and the Utes as they put their foot on the gas pedal and refused to look back. Right off the bat, Rising went for it all as he completed a 42-yard pass to Theo Howard down the sideline, perfectly hitting him in stride and just out of reach of the defenders. 

Just a few plays later, Rising would again look to pass as he connected with Money Parks in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. Following the PAT, the Utes retook the lead, 14-10 with just 3:57 left in the second quarter.

After a quick series by the Trojans, courtesy of an 8-yard sack by Sack Lake City candidate Mika Tafua, the Utes were back in business. Instead of electing to take a knee and go into the locker room with a slight lead, Rising and the offense stayed aggressive. 

On what was originally supposed to be a run, but was accidentally called a flea-flicker by Rising, the sophomore quarterback dropped back into the pocket and heaved a pass 37-yards down field to a streaking Devaughn Vele for the touchdown. This would prove to be a tipping point for the Utes as they took a commanding 21-10 lead with all the momentum into halftime.

Out of the half, the Utes maintained their composure and kept that same energy. After a few first-down passes by Rising, running back Tavion Thomas came into the game and instantly made an impact. Just after converting a critical third down, Thomas plowed through a defender, kept his feet, and cruised 43-yards for the score.

On the ensuing USC drive, free-safety Vonte Davis came up big as he intercepted Slovis and returned the ball 32 yards. Additionally, London would take a cheap shot at Davis out of bounds, tacking on an additional 15-yards into Trojan territory. Not long after, Rising would cash in with his legs, taking it up the middle and spinning out of a tackle to reach the end zone. This would give the Utes a 35-10 advantage with 9:13 left in the third quarter.

Even though the rest of the third was uneventful with neither team scoring through the remaining nine minutes, the Trojans did find the end zone twice in the fourth. However, it was too little too late as Rising would find Kincaid for a touchdown and the Utes established an insurmountable 45 points. 

University of Utah wide receiver, redshirt freshman, Devaughn Vele, in a University of Utah Football Game against the USC Trojans on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Kevin Cody)

Following another score by the Trojans, Utah would assume victory formation, earning their first ever Pac-12 win at the Coliseum, 42-26, and putting the rest of the conference on notice.

While it was certainly a team effort and a well executed all-around performance, Rising was magnificent against USC all night long. For the game, Rising finished 22-28 (79%) for 306-yards and three touchdowns. He also added 27 yards on six carries and managed to find the end zone once with his legs. 

“He [Rising] is an alpha dog,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He is a leader in every sense of the word. He does command the room, he’s the leader of the offense. He is exactly what you want in a quarterback when you talk about the it factor, the general you want leading the troops.”

With the victory, the Utes improve to 3-2 on the season and 2-0 in the Pac-12 Conference. Utah will now head back to Salt Lake City for a pivotal South Division matchup against Arizona State. The game is currently scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16 with kick-off set for 8 p.m. MDT and will be broadcast on ESPN.


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